Corruption in China

Witness challenges developer's testimony

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 April, 2012, 12:00am


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An architect yesterday cast doubt on evidence that a payment of HK$20 million which ended up in the hands of Macau's jailed former transport chief was a payment for construction work.

Architect Leung Wah-tat said it was impossible that Hong Kong developers behind a residential project in Macau had made a preliminary payment to the construction firm, as tycoon Steven Lo Kit-sing said in evidence on Friday.

Lo and fellow Hong Kong businessman Joseph Lau Luen-hung have been embroiled in the latest prosecution of Ao Man-long, the former secretary for transport and public works in Macau, who was jailed for 281/2 years in 2009 for corruption.

Ao is accused of six fresh counts of taking bribes and three of money laundering in the case at Macau's Court of Final Appeal.

Giving evidence on Friday, Lo said the HK$20 million, originating with Lau's company Chinese Estates, was to be paid by Lo's Eastern Base to a construction company owned by Ho Meng-fai, now a fugitive.

Lo said he was told by Ho to instead pay the money to its supplier, Ecoline, a company thought to be controlled by Ao.

But architect Leung, who worked on the project for Hsin Yieh, an architecture firm hired by Chinese Estates, said payment would not have been made before work had progressed on the site. The disputed sum was paid in October 2005, before work had even begun, according to documents submitted to the court.

Leung said design work on the first temporary buildings for the site was only completed at the beginning of 2006. 'To my understanding, there was no [payment to the construction company before mid-2006],' Leung said.

Leung told the court the architecture firm would usually give the construction company a certificate when it was satisfied with the progress of the works.

The construction company would then ask for payment. It was impossible to pay the construction company before that, he said.

The case centres on the tendering of five plots of land measuring more than 78,000 square metres opposite Macau's airport. The bid was won by international property consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle in 2005. It was submitted on behalf of Macau company Moon Ocean, now owned by Lau and previously owned by Lo.

The hearing will continue tomorrow before Judge Sam Hou-fai.